You wake up on Monday morning, look around at the incredible leaps of technology and human activity in the world around and us and muse, "What will they think of next?" But if you watched Episode 6/Season 7 of "Shark Tank" Friday night, you'd know: Hot coffee in a can.

It's huuuuge in Japan, as a certain presidential candidate would say, but it also was a huge flop with the investor moguls in the tank.

Danny Grossfeld was looking for $300,000 for 10 percent of Hot Shot, a ready-to-drink hot coffee drink in a can. Grossfeld discovered canned coffee is a $15 billion-per-year business in Japan, and has since spent six years and $2 million creating Hot Shot, with most of the money going to develop coffee that can last up to four months on constant heat in special heated refrigerators. Now he is ready to launch the product.

The sharks loved the coffee (the can has an insulated label to make it comfortable to hold) but hated the business, and who can blame them? If this is so big in Japan, why not license a current product from that country? Couldn't Grossfeld just go to Japan and interview a few food scientists to figure out the formula? Has anyone tried to bring this concept to any other country before? And, if this takes off, what's to stop Starbucks or 7-Eleven or just about any coffee or fast-food company from jumping in?

"I've seen so many times where somebody sinks a ton of money into something and, in my gut, I feel it's just not going to work," Lori Grenier says. "Not only am I saying that I'm out, but I'm suggesting that you should be, too."

Afterward, Grossfeld tell the camera: "I've been having people tell me It's not going to work for a long time."

As Dear Abby used to advise, "Wake up and smell the coffee!"

A much more well-received pitch came from Mike Doyle and Drew Mitchell, who sought $200,000 for 10 percent of Rent Like A Champion, a service that arranges weekend home rentals in big college football cities. They've targeted 20 big college towns, lined up and interview homeowners, who then rent the homes out to alumni and fans. The big market is South Bend, Indiana, home to Notre Dame, and they want the investment to add 20 cities.

The process of marketing the service, visiting each city and personally signing up homeowners is a barrier to competition, they say, and fears that renters will trash the homes have gone unfounded. The two founders estimate they'll make $950 million in 2015 on rentals of $1.4 million, and have no debt.

Kevin O'Leary initially offers $200,000 for 15 percent. But Mark Cuban and guest shark Chris Sacca (a former Googler who left to form his own VC firm) get in with an offer of $200,000 for 10 percent.

The sharks also are fascinated by Windcatcher Technology, founded by tinkerer and autodidact tinkers Ryan Frayne, who seeks $200,000 for 8 percent of the company. Windcatcher uses a new type of valve that inflates air mattresses and any other kind of inflatable in just seconds, by maximizing the effect of the user's breath, to function 10 times faster than the conventional beach-ball valve that drives us all nuts.

Frayne has sold $160,000 worth of air mattresses that also convert to seats on Kickstarter; not wanting to reveals costs, he says he has a 60 percent margin selling to retailers.

The sharks see a lot of possibilities for both licensing and Windcatcher's own products. O'Leary starts with a venture debt proposal, to investing $200,000, take 6 percent of all sales until $800,000 and 3 percent equity. Grenier offers $200,000 for 15 percent. Sacca wants to come in and they would 20 percent split equally. Frayne shoots that down noting that he's received offers of royalty-only deals that were worth more than $200,000 and rejected them.

Robert Herjavec offers $200,000 for 10 percent, but Frayne also wants him to back purchase orders with a line of credit. The bidding goes on, Herjavec lowers his equity, O'Leary drops his equity to 1 percent, and Grenier eventually drops Sacca from her deal, offering $200,000 for 5 percent equity and a line of credit.

Last up are sisters Lavanya and Melissa Jawaharlal, seeking $150,000 for 15 percent of Stem Center USA, their proposed line of educational centers teaching science, technology, engineering and math skills to students from age 5 to college. Stem Center had $300,000 in revenue last year in one location, $130,000 from the center and $170,000 from a robotics product for students that the sisters launched on Kickstarter.

Many of the sharks think the centers are too early in development, and that the sisters' business plan and goals aren't gelled enough to take on investors. However, Grenier and Sacca like the idea, and both make offers, with Sacca offering $200,000 for 22.5 percent. Grenier drops her equity bid to 20 percent, and the sisters take the deal.

 

Published on: Nov 2, 2015